Between the intensity of the performers as they act out the lives of druggies, the choppiness of the script and the thick Scottish brogue the actors have donned, the play adaptation of Trainspotting is shocking, riveting, but at many points very hard to follow and understand. The seat of your pants Productions presentation of this play, currently on stage at The Elephant Theater in Hollywood, is bold, with full male and female nudity, vivid and disturbing props of human feces, urine and bloodied tampons as well as strong language. This is not a show for all audiences but for those who can handle it, it is intense, thought-provoking, and filled with some outstanding performances.
Adapted from Irvine Welsh’s cult classic book of the same name, Harry Gibson has taken the series of short stories about heroin addicts in Scotland and wrote it as a play, melding many stories in order to repeat characters and have more of a coherent arc. Originally written for only 4 actors, playing dozens of roles, Director Roger Mathey asked for permission to expand the cast allowing for less overlap of characters. This was allowed, and Mathey first brought his version of the play to Los Angeles audiences in 2002 resulting in rave reviews and many awards. Now the production is back, with four of the original cast members re-tackling these in-depth roles with ten more years of life experience themselves.
Trainspotting is a dark look into the lives of four friends whose entire lives are dictated by their heroine addictions. It covers a wide variety of themes that many people can relate to in one way or another. Mark Renton played to brilliant perfection by Justin Zachary, leads the cast in this whirlwind snapshot of this drug hazed group. Set in 1980’s Scotland which provides poverty, the AIDS outbreak and a lack of country pride for the characters to muddle their way through, as they try to embrace what they are living for. They have made conscious efforts to not amount to anything, to spend their lives “trainspotting” which is a term used for people who have too much spare time on their hands.
The play itself is well staged, generally well cast, with Zachary and David Agranov as Tommy** standing out as the stars of the show. The direction is great for what the script provides. Since this was taken from a series of short stories it comes off as a bit choppy and at times it can be confusing. Mark is recognized as the narrator during the first act, yet the character Alison (Alison Walter) becomes the narrator in the second act which is unexplained and not as interesting.
Overall Trainspotting is a raunchy, in your face play that will definitely feel like a smack in the face. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes we need a good smack in order to ask ourselves what life is about and what we are actually doing with it. For there is nothing like watching a bunch of addicts, waste their lives to make you want to go out and do something with yours.
Trainspotting runs weekends until April 13th. Please note that this production contains adult content and cigarette smoking.
**Please note that most roles are double cast and this review is based on the cast seen on Saturday March 16th.